Notre Dame Prep seniors look to end girls soccer careers with stellar resume

NDP forward Alexa Clatt (14) passes the ball past a Paradise Valley defender to fellow forward Kristina Kellogg (7) during a 7-0 wing over the Trojans Tuesday, Jan. 16. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Seniors on the Notre Dame Preparatory girls soccer team have had wildly successful careers with the school and are now looking to top it off with one more state championship.

The Saints won back-to-back state titles in 2015 and 2016 when the 14 seniors on the roster were freshmen and sophomores, respectively.

NDP fell short in 2017 with a semifinal loss but are now hurtling toward the playoffs with a 12–2–1 overall record, as of Wednesday, Jan. 17, and a chance to win its third state title in four years.

NDP defender Jacqueline Culver (3) fires a shot on goal past the Paradise Valley goalkeeper during a 7-0 wing over the Trojans Tuesday, Jan. 16. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Crafting a resume like this is an experience defender Hannah Osland said is “inexplainable.”

“It’s been quite the ride and honestly, it’s very unique,” she said in a Jan. 16 interview. “No one in the state can say right now that they have two state titles under their belt (in girls soccer).”

What makes the Saints’ such a potent threat this year is 10 of the team’s 11 starters are seniors with sophomore forward Alexa Clatt being the other starter. Osland said 10 of the 14 seniors made the varsity team as freshmen.

That means each player steps onto the pitch with a wealth of experience that they can draw from during the season.

One such experience is last year’s semifinal loss to Arcadia High School.

“No one wants to feel that feeling again,” Osland said. “It was awful, one of the worst feelings. So everybody has this fire inside them to get the state title again.”

Head Coach Tom White said in lieu of the missed opportunity to win three consecutive titles, he challenged the 14 seniors on what type of legacy they wanted to leave and how they’d respond to adversity.

Their response to that challenge, Coach White said, has been a positive one.

“They’re starting to get that internal switch,” he said in a Jan. 15 interview. “That switch you can just turn on and hopefully, that competitive edge just takes over.”

As a result of the team’s successes and responses, Coach White said he has given more leeway to his players on the field.

The goal behind this method, Coach White said, it to allow his players the opportunity to make their own decisions on the field.

NDP midfielder Shelby McCabe (4) presses the ball up the field as Paradise Valley midfielder Jenna McGee (12) chases during a 7-0 wing over the Trojans Tuesday, Jan. 16. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

“I think in the game of soccer, sometimes coaches have so much control and so much dictations on what you can and cannot do,” he said. “There’s no freedom of thought. There’s no freedom of play and just letting the game of soccer be played.”

This freedom seems to have resonated with the players.

Midfielder Abby Furtmann said she likes the freedom on the field and has enjoyed how much Coach White values the players’ opinions in his coaching.

“He coaches us and he encourages us, but we all have a say, the whole team has a say,” she said in a Jan. 16 interview. “I think that really helps team unity.”

With the success NDP has had, the team has had to find a way to guard against becoming complacent.

Furtmann said the Saints try to treat each team they play like it’s going to be a hard match. Osland concurred.

“We give them that respect because everybody deserves that,” Osland said.

The Saints have defeated multiple teams this year by large deficits behind a stiff defense. They’re outscoring teams 53–7 with nine of their 15 matches being shutouts as of Wednesday, Jan. 16.

But neither Furtmann nor Osland identified that as the Saints’ defining trait.

Osland said she wants other teams to think of a sound soccer team that moves the ball well when they play NDP.

“I just want every team to be scared to play us,” she said. “Not because we’re physical, but because we’re a very skilled team and we’ll give you a hard game.”

Along with the winning tradition that NDP experiences, Coach White said he also wants to establish a culture akin to what Scot Bemis established with the program. Along with being a football coach, Coach Bemis spent time as the girls head soccer coach.

While Coach White never met Coach Bemis before he passed away, he said he learned a lot of Coach Bemis’ expectations secondhand from coaches and teachers who did interact with him.

Coach White said his Coach Bemis-inspired culture centers around “high expectations in terms of sportsmanship and class.”

“We tend to forget that these are just high school students so sometimes they are going to make mistakes,” he said. “It’s just are they learning from them? That’s the biggest thing I want them to get from the program.”

Paradise Valley defender Lucia Acosta (10) tries to get the ball past forward Alexa Clatt (14) during a 7-0 wing over the Trojans Tuesday, Jan. 16. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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